Tuesday, March 30, 2010

an expensive new hobby

We're in Arizona for the week. It was about 90 degrees today which is a pleasant change. I skipped going to the pool and instead went to try my hand at wood carving. At first when my dad handed me a chunk of alder wood with lines drawn on it and a picture of a bear I chickened out and said I wasn't going to be able to do it because I'm genetically "not crafty". But I figured I'd go and give it a shot since I did now have a piece of wood and a picture of a bear and why let it go to waste?

It turns out that there are all sorts of really cool little power tools that one gets to use in wood carving. We're doing the power-tool/sanding type carving as opposed to knife carving. I spent a couple hours with a dust mask on and these cool little power sanders and tiny whirling spiked balls that looked like torture devices for mice. After I had worked on my bear for a couple hours my dad said it was time to go and I was not at all ready to quit! I think I'm going to take a class this summer and keep it up.

I've been seeing a lot of cool birds down here. My favorites are the Grackle and these tiny little pheasants that scurry around everywhere. There are also a lot of wild rabbits, house finches, mourning doves and woodpeckers. There are some strange insects too although thankfully I have not run across a tarantula (shudder).

I like waking up in the morning, opening our hotel bedroom door to our balcony and seeing these rolling brown hills in the distance and jack rabbits running across the gold course and grackles making their weird noises in the palm trees. Very nice. Of course this lifestyle is only lasting five days then it's back to the same old grind - get up, get the girl to school (in the rain or overcast chill) and do work. I wouldn't mind retiring but then I guess everyone feels that way so it's not like some big revelation.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

chicken sitters and horse sense

I went out to see my horse today before going on vacation tomorrow. We came home to our chicken sitter swinging on the swing in front of our house because she couldn't remember if we left today or tomorrow and was debating whether or not to feed the chickens. We actually have to have two people to take care of our pets now. We have one to take care of the house pets and the house and one to take care of the chickens. It makes me realize how hard it would be to find someone to take care of the horses if I didn't board my horse. As it is I just had to tell the owner that I'll be out of town and call my cell if there are any problems.

I realize that I didn't see my horse all this last week because I had a bunch of work to do to prepare to not be available for a week, but it makes me miss her more to know that I can't come see her this upcoming week because I'll be on the other side of the country.

She was a little wound up today. There was a lot going on at the stable just like all Saturdays but she was more wound up than usual. When I road her she was nice and calm in the arena while she was walking. But then I oversignaled her to trot the first time and she let out a buck and started to bolt before I quickly slowed her down. She tried a few times to take off while we were trotting and actually got a little angry with me at one point and put her ears back to let me know that she wanted to run and I was not complying. I let her know that when we're in the arena we were there to work and she needs to follow my lead.

How do I let her know that? By continuing to remain calm and giving her the same signals firmly that say "We are trotting. Just trotting. I am the herd leader and this is what we're doing." I'm trying to learn how to feel normal doing that in my life with humans too - instead of getting defensive or angry when someone is trying to get me to fight with them. I just had an incident where I tried staying calm and not engaging and it was very weird. While this person was being incredibly insulting toward me I tried very hard not to take the bait and fight back and I was able to leave the situation unscathed and I know the whole thing ended quicker. I think if I had defended myself by yelling back we would have been there for hours yelling at each other and getting nowhere while it escalated to a non-productive and unnecessary place. And since I knew I was in the right it seemed like I should just walk away and let her boil in her own rage. With horses it's similar - if I stay calm they tend to calm down (ok the human yelling at me didn't calm down but at least I didn't get caught in the web of endless fighting) and even if they don't calm down, my calmness shows the horse I am the authority. But especially with my horse, if I start fighting her, I will lose.

I read a great quote by a horse trainer in one of my horse magazines and I don't remember who it was or exactly how the quote goes but it was something like this: "If you get to the point of yelling then you have lost." You can't be a good leader if you're freaking out and yelling (which shows a lack of control) and horses will only follow a strong leader. This horse stuff is really teaching me a lot more than just how to not fall off the back of a half-ton creature with a mind of her own.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sun sun and more sun

It's actually been sunny and mildly warm in Seattle the last week or so. I've been getting a lot of yard work done, part of the motivation being that I want our house to be ready to put on the market if we find a house we want to move to. And because it would be a novel thing to have a house that was actually not kind of messy and ramshackle.

So, I still have not figured out a way for us to move to a farm (meaning we'd have to move somewhere at least an hour outside of downtown Seattle where we both work) but we are now talking about moving to ... wait for it ... the suburbs. Oh my god, did she really say that? Yes, we're thinking of moving to the suburbs. But not the suburbs as most imagine it with the cookie cutter houses. We're looking at a house in a city next door to Seattle (ie: the suburbs) but it's in a very woodsy area with a salmon creek running through the yard and huge old evergreens surrounding it. So, it feels like it is in the woods even though it's only a half hour from downtown. And it's close to the place where I board my horse so it'll be easier to see her more frequently. So that kind of area is our compromise and I think I might be ok with it.

There's still room for chickens and a big vegetable garden. Possibly solar panels in the future if the evergreens don't block all the sun. Need to research more on that still. Not that we're buying this house, it just looks very interesting. But any house I want to eventually look at supplementing our power with solar panels and how that works. We have some friends who live on Marrowstone Island who power their house solely by solar panels and I need to go out there this summer and learn more about it.

Woodia is still not putting any weight on her bad leg although the joint isn't as hot as it used to be. I'm wondering if her toe is injured because she got her foot caught in the coop door the other day? That would just suck for her. I'm letting them free-range because I decided to take a day off from everything and stay home all day and work in the yard. I had a bad week or so with some high-school drama on the periphery of my life that final came to end last night and I feel very tired and a bit beaten up. So today is my "take good care of myself" day. And nothing helps for that like working in the garden.

Friday, March 19, 2010

seedling anxiety

I planted some vegetable starts about two weeks ago in some tiny little peet pots and have been watching them way too closely ever since. Both types of tomatoes sprouted within the first week but none of the peppers - bell or jalepeno are sprouting yet. I'm wondering if they're going to? EJ got a valentine from her friend, Jimena that had a little piece of paper with seeds embedded in it so we planted those and they are sprouting like crazy. I'm curious to see what they are because I can't identify them yet from their sprouts. I also planted flower seed starts a few days ago: some sort of daisy, straw flowers, forget-me-nots and snap dragons. I've heard it's time to get our peas in the ground but we are occasionally still getting night time frosts so I need to look that up. And I need to weed the vegetable garden to be able to put the peas in. And pick up the chicken poop (the chickens have been free-ranging in the backyard and straight poop is too high in nitrogen and will burn the plant starts) and make a barricade so the chickens won't go in and eat my vegie starts.

Woodia is actually getting better! She's finished with her antibiotics and she looks a lot happier and is putting a little more weight on her leg. At first she was just putting it down to steady her balance and she had her toes all curled up. Then she was uncurling her toes when she used it for balance but still leaving the toes very limp when she picked them up, but now today she's actually putting a little weight on the foot with the toes completely out and not curling them again as soon as she picks up her foot.

It turns out she is not laying eggs, it was Alina who started laying the green eggs. Alina is definitely a red sexlink, but apparently somewhere in her lineage is an Easter Egger. I don't think Woodia is going to be able to lay eggs because her body was born so deformed and she is so tiny from not being able to eat sufficiently. Who knows though. Maybe come Spring she will. Still, I feel responsible for her because she was dealt such a raw hand with all her physical deformities.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

wild mustangs and spooky horses

I don't think my Enbrel is working very well as far as my arthritis goes. I haven't been able to take it consistently for a few months because of so many illnesses and I'm starting to feel it. I'm not doing as badly as I was before I was on any medication, but I've been having trouble sleeping because my shoulders, elbows and hands ache so much. Gah. It's very frustrating but I guess in the grand scheme of things if this is the worst of it I've still got it pretty good. I can still knit and walk and those were things I couldn't do very well (if at all) pre-medication three years ago.

I had a riding lesson scheduled yesterday but I was too exhausted and achy so I asked if my daughter, EJ could take a lesson in my place. My instructor was dubious because Doc, the beginners horse is lame right now from founder and she as rule usually doesn't teach kids until they are 8 years old and my daughter just turned 6 years old. But she's been going on lots of lead line rides on my horse, Girlfriend and she had a riding lesson in New Orleans when she was 5 years old. So they gave it a try.

I was really proud of EJ. She rode Oh No, who I think I mentioned before has a tendency to fall asleep in the arena. And he's really big and that makes EJ nervous. Doc is under 15 hands and shorter than my horse whereas Oh No must be almost 16 hands. But my instructor had him on the lunge line and he listens to her. I've never actually seen a horse who doesn't listen to her. I stood outside the arena with another girl, Megan who boards her horse there and a mother of another student. Megan kept muttering, "Oooh ... good job. Oooh ... look at that. Very good!" which was making me glow with pride. I actually thought she did very too and paid attention really well for a 6 year old. I think she's a little too young to focus consistently for regular lessons yet but I was proud of how well she did for such a little girl. She's got a natural feel for posting and seems to have already started to develop a good seat. She looks very secure up there, not sliding around like some of the very beginner kids.

Speaking of a good seat, I still have grand aspirations to have a good seat although I know it just takes time. I can tell my seat is a lot better than it was just a year ago. I'm not feeling like I'm losing my balance as easily and getting more confident. Although I rode Girlfriend briefly after EJ's lesson until she started to spook because Megan was lunging her new horse, Atlas and he was acting up a bit and she would crack the lunge whip to get his attention and it was freaking Girlfriend out.

I never did figure out if it was because Atlas was being erratic or if it was the sound of the lunge whip cracking. I got the feeling that it was the sound of the lunge whip because her body would go into "flight mode". I'm guessing that when she was being trained for gaming that the trainer would crack the whip like that as an indicator she should go faster and because she rarely hears that sound it was instinctually priming her to gallop despite that I was holding her back. Although, initially it was because Atlas tried to gallop off away from Megan for a moment. Girlfriend did her little jump in place then danced her way into the corner with her head facing the corner which is her M.O. for "I am spooked". So, I got off of her and walked her around for awhile and waited until Megan had Atlas walking before I got back on her.

Five months ago Atlas was a wild mustang on the BLM land so the fact that he is already so well trained is pretty amazing to me. That he will walk, trot and canter for the most part quietly around Megan with a saddle on his back is impressive to me. He seems like a very sweet horse but he obviously has a wild streak. I like it because his wild streak feels to me a lot like Girlfriend's hot spirit.

Later in the afternoon I went back in the arena to talk to my instructor while she was helping Megan lunge Atlas and my instructor said, "Get his attention. He's focused on the new person who walked in the arena and he needs to stay focused on you." I looked over at him and sure enough he was staring right at me. I could almost hear his thoughts, "Are you a wolf?" I've never seen a horse look at me like that and I couldn't stop looking a him because it was such a different look in his eyes than I ever seen from my lifetime of only knowing domestic horses. I'm pretty excited about him being at the stable and getting to watch him as he is trained.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

update on high voltage gamma ray lines

I've been attempting to research the health effects of high voltage power lines on people and animals because of a house we are interested in in Bothell that is across the street from some. So far I have nothing conclusive. There just isn't any scientific data on what high levels of EMF do to the body. Although, it has got me thinking about getting one of those protective pads they put over you when you get x-rays to have on my lap between my legs and my laptop (since a bad habit of mine is to slump on the couch with my laptop on my lap). Ok, maybe I'm not really going to freak out enough to do that but I tell ya, a little knowledge can cause a lot of paranoia.

So far from what I understand, EMF (electro-magnetic fields) dissipate at a fairly rapid rate as you get farther from the source. So you only need to be 300 feet away from those giant towers with the high voltage power lines for the EMF levels to be background (the same as household appliances or this laptop I've got sitting on my lap ... man, I can feel myself getting infertile as we speak ... ahem ...) Anyway. I'm not sure if these power lines are 300 feet away from the house I like so another option is to find a gadget that will measure EMF fields. So far I haven't found anyone that happens to have one of those lying around their house but I'm still looking.

As for whether or not high levels of EMF are dangerous or not, there are not definitive scientific studies to show either way. There are studies that show there is a possibility but that's about as scientific as saying "there is a possibility that walking on grass in bare feet causes skin cancer" - meaning, it really says nothing scientifically. But there are also no tests that show conclusively that it does not cause problems. And when you think about how much energy our bodies are made of (granted it's ionic not electro-magnetic) it does make you wonder if on some level large EMF field could be damaging.

So, basically, I have no more information than when I started. Well, except that if the property I like is 300 feet or more away than it is a moot point.

Meanwhile, Woodia has been taking antibiotics for the last few days and her leg is not at all better. I'm wondering now if it is not an infection in the joint afterall but is a sprain or break? Regardless, the antibiotics will help ward off an infection if it is a break. It's just hard not to feel bad for her. I know she's only a chicken and probably not sentient like humans (or even dogs) but I'm such a damn human that I can't help but project onto her that she is getting depressed about only having one workable foot (which is deformed to start).

Last night I had a friend over to hang out and watch movies because I'd had a terrible day and JP was out so I wanted some emotional support. We ended up lying in bed watching Long Way Down about two guys riding their motorcycles across Africa. In one scene they were riding with a Kenyan security team and at dinner the Kenyan guys went and pulled a live goat out of their truck, slit its throat, skinned it right there and had goat for dinner. They didn't show them killing it but both my friend and I were cringing while they were skinning it but we were both saying, "This is how we get our meat, though." It was yet another reminder of how out of touch our culture is in so many ways. And I wonder if these Kenyan guys are so much healthier than we are because it's totally normal to kill a goat and eat it right there on the spot as opposed to meat in a shrink-wrapped container that's been frozen for who knows how long. I don't know if I could kill a goat though. They remind me too much of dogs.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

one sick chicken

So, Woodia has something wrong with her. The other day I noticed that she was limping and that one of her legs was very swollen and hot. After not finding a chicken vet in Seattle I asked Sheryl who gave her to me where to find a chicken vet. She called her friend, Cindy and I explained what was going on and Cindy seemed to think what I thought - that Woodia has an infection in the joint. So, a couple days ago I started giving her antibiotics but so far they haven't really taken effect yet. Woodia is still hopping around, although now she's not putting any weight at all on her leg. I feel really bad for her because she was dealt such a bad hand physically to begin with. We'll see if she's doing any better in a couple days. It may be broken if the antibiotics don't help which just means it will have to heal on its own I guess. But at least the antibiotics will keep any infection from growing.

Giving pills to a chicken is a total non-event I've found. Much easier than giving pills to a cat. Actually giving medicine to a horse is easier than giving pills to a cat. Or a terrified pitbull.

There's a house in the woods in Bothell that we're going to walk through this weekend with our real estate agent. It's very woodsy property so at least for now it would not work for keeping a horse there although someday in the future we might clear some space and put in a small barn. But I like that it's so wild and woodsy. The property across the street has huge power lines though and we need to do a little research on whether or not that is a problem. I have heard all the conspiracy theories: that living under those giant powerlines can cause cancer, neurological problems, anxiety disorders, autoimmune disorders and turn people into werewolves. But I don't know if there is any credible science behind it. Honestly, to me the biggest issue with giant power lines on one's property would be the fear that during a giant earthquake or a windstorm they're going to come down on your house. But these are not on the property so that is not an issue.

I will report back as to whether or not having large powerlines across the street would potential turn us into candidates for the X-Men after I do more research.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

cowgirl has a party

My husband and daughter went to a dad/kid camp weekend so I had a karaoke/dance party. I invited a really huge amount of people and I think maybe 10% of them showed up but it was still very fun. Many of my friends were sick this weekend and could not come which was disappointing. But about 16 people showed up which is about all my little house can handle without it feeling cramped. And we had a lot of fun. I'm glad that my friends are willing to get silly with me. I actually had one point last night where I laughed so hard that tears started streaming down my face.

The subject came up about how it is the "norm" not to show up to a party at the time that the hostess says it starts. I think that is stupid. It reminds me of the old line one of my old friends used to use, "Oh - why can't he get the hint?!" It just reeks of passive-aggressive-why-can't-you-read-my-mind-because-I'm-not-willing-to-make-the-effort-to-communicate attitude that drives me crazy. But talking to most of my friends last night, it appears that this is a very pervasive thing and it was proven by no one showing up within the first half hour after the party started except one friend who came early to be supportive because I was having pre-party jitters. Where do these silly ideas come from I wonder? I find it ironic, especially because people also feel they need to tell you if they're going to be late to a party at the same time that they are expected to not show up on time. Oh, people just drive me crazy. I am such a cranky-pants.

Woodia the chicken has been limping the last 24 hours or so. I picked her up today and looked at the leg she is favoring and her knee is really hot and swollen. I flipped her over on her back and looked all around her leg to try and find a cut or something that could've gotten infected and didn't see anything. Just a very swollen knee with a lot of heat (a sign of infection) coming from it. She's not really moving her foot at all, she just lets it hang, but that could just be because pressure causes more pain on that leg. Poor Woodia. She was really dealt a harsh blow with her physical body. Her good foot is missing one toe and part of another, after looking up information on cross-beaks I see that hers is about as severe as one could get, and the top of her beak is deformed too. But up until today she seemed happy and like she was doing well. If her leg is not better tomorrow I'll have to see if my vet here in town takes care of chickens. Otherwise, I think I'm going to have to cart her all the way up to my friend's clinic in Monroe.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Gardening

Even though we may not find our right house outside the city to move to, I figure we might as well get our house *ready* to sell just in case. And cause it might be nice to live in a house nice enough you could put it on the market.

So, besides my vegetable garden that means I need to clean up all my flower beds which has been taking years because I haven't wanted to spend a chunk of money replacing plants. There were lots of flower beds when we moved in 10 years and they were pretty messy. I finally just broke down and bought a bunch of new plants. I've bought a few here and there over the years and some have lived and thrived and others haven't done so well. Part of the problem with the beds that are near the sidewalk are the dogs who pee on all the new plants and kill them with the acidity of the dog pee before they are established and strong enough to handle it.

I'll have to look at the names of the plants again and write them down because I still don't know my plants well enough to just say what they were off the top of my head. Except the ferns. We'll see if I can keep the ferns alive this time.

(later) I started this post this morning then had to go out and plant my new blueberry bushes and strawberry starts before heading out for the day.

I ordered a really nice (but inexpensive) black braided English bridle with a light split snaffle for Girlfriend and it came earlier in the week. I took it to the stable today to try out on Girlfriend and she looks sooooooo pretty in it! The black against her pretty slightly reddish brown fur looks wonderful. She definitely did not want to put the bit in her mouth at first and did a lot of pushing it around in her mouth while we were riding, but I think that's just because it's brand new. It's the same as Texas's bit but it's brand new so it hasn't rusted and started tasting sweeter. Imagine having a piece of clean, cold metal in your mouth? I kept telling her this is going to be her worst ride with the bit and it will start tasting better.

She did ok. She was all riled up and was irritated by the bit but she did better than I think a lot of horses would've done with a brand new bit and bridle. I really need to get a picture of her in it because she looks so good!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

completely random

There is a lot of gossip in my neighborhood and around my daughter's grade school. Some of it is literally getting to the point of a witch hunt and the person in question in this witch hunt is black. Part of why my husband and I are so hesitant to chuck it all and live in the wilds of Okanogon County (for instance) is the lack of supposedly educated, sane individuals devoid of all those "isms" you hope won't be so common in the big city. So, this is showing me that no matter where you go people will be people - educated or not. The fucked up ones will be fucked up even with a PhD. Of course, I'm still not ready to run off to Tonasket because they don't have a big library or events like Dr Sketchy's within easy driving distance. Or Amazon Fresh. Ok, I really can live without Amazon Fresh. It's just a little phase I've been going through the last couple months. I swear.

Our chickens are popping out a couple eggs a day which is more than we eat so I've been giving some to one of the moms from our school who really wants chickens but doesn't have a yard, and all her kids love eggs. So, it's an extra treat for them to get to have green and brown speckled eggs. That's fun to be able to do stuff like that for my neighbors. Yet another reason why I like having chickens. Besides all the other reasons like they are funny, they are a great at-home-natural-science lesson for my daughter and I love the fresh eggs too.

My husband has said that the two places he'd possibly ok moving are Bainbridge and Bothell. I'm hesitant about Bainbridge because of having to take the ferry to get into the city for stuff like doctor appointments with my specialist every month of so. Although my work is literally two blocks at most from the ferry terminal so that is very cool. But also it sounds like horse boarding is expensive over there as are lessons and I really like where I'm taking lessons and boarding my horse right now.

I'm hesitant to give that up. Bothell on the other hand is presenting a more interesting problem I did not expect to run into. Most of the houses in our price range that we actually like (that aren't dinky, old ramblers from the 60's or those ugly 1970's split levels) are in "planned neighborhoods" with Home Owner's Associations and NONE of them allow chickens. Quite a few of them actually don't have any breed restrictions like say Issaquah Highlands which has a "no pitbulls" rule. But on a side note, my friend, Brian lives there and has a pitbull and just maintains that his dog is not a pitbull. It's a stupid rule anyway since his dog (and my dog) are very sweet. I'd rather my neighbor had a sweet pitbull than a vicious lab. Maybe a "no dangerous dogs" rule would be better? But that wouldn't fit the propaganda so no, it wouldn't be better. Ahem ... I am digressing again.

Anyway, Spring is coming and even living in the city in Spring is nice. My latest quandry though is that we don't have trees that are big enough and strong enough to hold a tire swing. People litter a lot in our neighborhood (well, I think they do in all neighborhoods probably) and yesterday on our way home from school we passed a couple tires thrown on the side of the road. So, I picked up the intact one and hauled it home to make a tire swing out of. Although, I'm having trouble finding a tree that can hold it. I have one that *might* work. We'll see. But I am missing the days of living in a neighborhood like the one I grew up in where there were woods right next to my house, so all sorts of trees for the taking for hanging a tire swing. We even had so many trees in my backyard that I had an actual tree house and a tire swing.

I've got my vegetable starts planted and sitting in the dining room window to get Eastern sun and it's about time to start planning where I'll put each vegetable depending on the amount of sunshine the areas get.